Thugs in a Temple!? WTF!?

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Interesting experience. I met with a Brahmin priest upon my arrival who informed me of the rules: as a foreigner, I must pay an entrance fee and I am also not allowed in, since I am not Nepali nor am I Hindu. My friend, who is Nepali and Hindu, got in for free, that sucka. Haaha.

Here is a link: http://www.pashupatinathtemple.org/

I went down to the area for a prayer and a puja. I asked for the courage and bravery to continue being fearless and to remain consistently on my path—intellectually and spiritually. Funny, shortly thereafter, the priest bids us good-bye and we started walking towards the cremation area and we were assaulted/almost robbed by two tourists-scammers right in the temple area!? The audacity of these bitches! Because my friend is Nepali, as I previously mentioned, he has an awareness of the landscape and can spot out the good ones from the rotten ones. With intuition and strong-will, we exited with only a small altercation—who expects thugs in a temple?! Ugh, I guess human dignity has left the building. I would chalk it up as the divine just testing my ‘bravery, courage, and fearlessness’ since that was what I channelled during my puja—what do you think? This world keeps me on my toes! The complexity of being at a temple and having such an experience only highlights the absurdity of existence (Camus). What better way to celebrate the sacred and the profane—I think every ethnologists has encountered something of this nature, it is part of the territory I guess. Now back to the puja/prayer/mantra ceremony. It was quite an experience to be there, with this priest and my friend having this moment and being present. He (the Hindu priest) asked if I would like to extend this love and compassion to others like my family and I said yes, obviously. We took a few photos and exchanged e-mail addresses and he said that he will e-mail the photos to me since I am sans a mobile device and a camera (travelling like a gypsy, obvi).

On our way there and back, we stopped to watch a group of males playing cricket! I was so excited because I was my first encounter since being here—not even in India did I have the pleasure to see a full game in action. We return home and planned to hit the swimming pool because it is hot/humid today and we walked for an extended period of time. Instead, we used the water-hoes and had a splash pad/chase in the backyard/garden/side lawn area which was fun and a good form of exercise for the day. It was a nice way to end the day and take our minds of the two dweebs who attempted to ruin our day.

Yesterday, I attended the Darnal Award for Social Justice. I am a Research Associate with ICI and I worked on this event for the past year. Here is a link: http://www.darnalaward.org/event/2015-darnal-award-social-justice-special-event

This is just the beginning of great work to be done—an estimate of five schools will be built to help in the post-earthquake reconstruction. It is such an honour to be in the presence of such great and formative minds, people working passionately to better themselves and the communities they are exposed to/serve.

I am not sure what I will be doing for the rest of the day. I intend to edit my final reflection on Bhopal and have a post within the next few days….I will keep you posted.

Day Seventeen: Sanchi…Buddhalicious

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Oh man, what a trip! Pure beauty. Whoever crated this earth, he or she did a darn magnificent job—because even excrescences are beautiful.

The landscape changed drastically from urban industrious and polluted to green, scenic, peaceful and natural. It was night and day in a matter of miles/minutes, well, kilometres, over here miles is not the mode of calculation when it comes to distance. The city is very populated and everyone is on a motorbike, a moped, or some form of automobile. The air pollution is problematic and one can feel the dirt and fine particles on one’s face, so washing your face is crucial if you don’t want to break out.

Getting to Sanchi after the madness that is the urban area, was what the doctor recommended. Pure and utter peace and serenity, in a lusciously green backdrop. The rice fields and agricultural cultivation can be seen for miles. Sachi is located on top of a hill so the elevation allows for a panoptical view.

We were going to hire a taxi for the day but a staff member at the clinic recommended that we use his son. It worked in our favour because it is someone familiar and the fare stays in the family. He was accompanied by his best friend, and we brought our friend who could speak Hindi in case we needed to translate anything. We all enjoyed the beauty of Sanchi and everyone were in a state of tranquillity.

As an ex-competitive sprinter, I look for moments when I can relive my glory days. There are these ancient stone steps all over Sanchi that looks like hurdles—so, obviously, I suggested we race to the top. And yes, I won! I kicked those younglings…#ageinggracefully, haaha. Sanchi is one of those places that you have to visit once to fully comprehend its history, its intent, and its significance in human progress.

Upon our return, we all had lunch together and decompress from the experience…cool down period. I will now get some work done and then do final gift shopping before I depart on Saturday morning. It is bitter-sweet leaving India. Upon my next arrival, I will ensure to spend more time in the country side rather than the City—however, the City is where I was needed for this trip. The next trip, I will ensure I spend time grazing on the greenery that this sacred and mystical place has to provide.

Do you believe in omens? If you haven’t read The Alchemist, I kindly suggest that you do. It is a life-changer, fo shizzle. Oh, I forgot to mention. If you have not been exposed to Indian pop music, your life is about to change. It gives Korean pop a run for its money. I was first exposed to K-pop whilst in San Francisco, and I fell in love—it’s over the top fun! Think New Year’s Eve spectacle but in a music video, high entertainment.

 

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Day Sixteen: “How Swift Thy Sword” (Hero, 2002)

I watched Hero, again, and loved every minute of it…hence the title of today’s post.

I visited the mosque today intimidating…different language, different culture, and different religion. What is one to do but to sit in awe at mankind and the varied spaces we co-habit? On the way out, I bought some essential oils, and I am in love! You know that I am a sucker for anything that smells like it came from the Far East—sandalwood, patchouli, musk the list goes on!(https://www.google.co.in/search?q=taj-ul-masajid&espv=2&biw=1920&bih=971&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMI4a3Q_MiRxwIV0gSOCh22FgLo#imgrc=_).

The visit to the mosque has me thinking: not religion but irrational and dogmatic interpretations of religion is dangerous—not religion proper. Human beings are the reason for wars and destruction, not religion. It is the misinterpretation of spiritual texts and the bias readings for one’s own gain that is problematic, not the text themselves—it is the same thing as “guns do not kill people, people kill people.” I am thinking through this, so I am thinking as I write…if you have thoughts on this, holler at me via e-mail.

Zam Zam was one of my favourite watering holes in San Francisco and took a few friends there when they visited for cocktails. Here, it is a mom-n-pops/fast food-esque place where you get food. I went there but I was too early and the place was closed, they were prepping. I want to go back but I am not sure if it’ll actualize…trying to stay meat free, keep with my newly acquired Hindu/Indian veggie diet.

Speaking of Vanessa Williams’s Colour of the Wind, it is the first time in my life that I have gone for almost three weeks without seeing another of my kind. In these parts, everyone is either Muslim or Indian (and a handful of workers from Nepal). I have seen five Caucasians, total, three of whom I know). One sometimes forget the beauty of living in a place like NYC where cultures collide and create new spaces of entertainment and life. The monotony here (in Bhopal) is quite noticeable.

The staff meeting today was entertaining – pen/paper is still the mode of note taking here and I love it! I am old school like that. Men all seat on one side and the women on the other, not sure if it is by choice or just the way things operate, I didn’t ask. There was a big feast that followed for lunch, pure joy! I am learning so much and getting a hang of things and getting to know everyone and it’s now time to depart, typical. Sad face.

Day Thirteen: Kite Runner

 

It has been years since I flew a kite but I did just that yesterday. It was a moment of nostalgia and utter excitement. I felt like a little boy for that short duration—the eagerness of the kids to show me how it is done Indian style was exhilarating. I wanted to prove to them that though I maybe a tad bit older, ‘I still got it’…I can still do this, haaha, silly man.  I am glad I took the five minutes to simply stop and engage the kite, engage memories of my youth, and of days gone, the freedom entailed in just keeping an eye on your kite—I have not yet read Kite Runner…have you? (I just did a Google search and it sounds intense).

Yesterday, I went to the Indira Gandhi State Museum. First off, the grounds are spectacular! It is located in the hills of Bhopal overlooking the lake, breath-taking views! Now I understand the concept of new and old Bhopal. I will elaborate more on this in my final reflection essay.

This is a cliché…being in a place like India, if you self-reflex, you become aware of the things you take for granted. Simple things like fresh/clean drinking water, healthy and sustainable food, clean clothes, basic medicine, and the ability to have an education. Though things are expensive in a place like New York City, I, at times, take certain luxuries for granted—being here has opened my eyes to new perspectives and ways in which I think I will forever be altered. I would spend superfluously on dinners, drinks, and or cabs in one night, some people here, make less in one month than I would pay for a cab from Union Square to the Lower East Side, how can one return and continue such spending, without a conscientious thought?

One thing is universal, we all seek “the good life” in its assorted forms—what is your idea of a good life and are you living up to it? Today’s food-for-thought.

Do you get as excited as I do at the junction/intersection between the end of a book and the beginning of another—that space where you turn the last page of the present book and reach for the first page of the new book? Ah, bliss.

Day Eleven and Day Twelve: ‘I Share Your Love’

IMG_3747 He was caught of guard — he was laughing and smiling right before this…I think we surprised him with the flash. Haaha (Peter, I know you’ll enjoy this one).

I am watching a clinic employee feed the fish in the pond downstairs as I type. Like I said, everything here is connected and holistic—parts all come together to make a whole, it is marvellous. Speaking of feeding, I have not ingest meat in 10 days, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I may return a vegetarian…one that eats seafood. Haaha.

I had a great meeting with the Directing Trustee yesterday and his advised me on an exciting idea for my final write-up. I am visiting a few local government hospitals meant for the treatment of survivors. Basically, I will be on the go all day, from one location to the other—I am doing six total. So I am thinking two per day for the next three days but we’ll see.

I will stop by the market and start collecting gifts seeing that my time in India is coming to a close. I fly off to Nepal next Saturday for another project.

I found out that Hitler imitated a Hindu religious symbol and turned it into his Aryan nation symbol?! Madness. I found that out this evening whilst shopping for gifts at a metal store. They all sorts of metal utensils in silver, copper, and brass. I also bought a few spices, tea, and raw mint that looks like ice crystals!

On our way back however, we saw a sad scene – a man on the side of the road bleeding with a crowd around him. It may have been from an accident or a fight or something else, either way, my heart ached upon viewing. Things can go from pleasant to unpleasant in a flash…guess it’s one of life’s mysteries that we may never understand.

I am coming down with a cold. I got wet in the rain a few days ago and now I have a sore throat, a slight runny nose, and I feel it coming on stronger. I am drinking a cup of tea at the moment and rubbed my chest/neck with Vick’s vapour rub, hopefully, by the morning, I’ll be feeling much better because there is lots to do.

Here are a few photos…I don’t have a camera so I get photos from others. I used to love 7Ups as a kid, hence my excitement at finding this one…”life is like lemons, squeeze the juice out”

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Day Nine: Sandalwood, Kurta, and a Rickshaw = Atiba’s in Heaven!

I finally found sandalwood after a few days search!!! (Yes, Lex, I will be bring some for Ava, she’ll smell charming).

I had a meeting with the director of the clinic yesterday and another meeting with him today. There is also the staff meeting happening this evening (I think I mentioned in the beginning that there is a weekly staff meeting).

It is now 5:48 am, the sky is opening and the animals are making their varied sounds, accounting for their existence.

The site tour yesterday was quite an experience. I learned a lot about the abandoned plant, and myself. I learned that the rusting/decaying structures that are left can be a metaphor for the conditions directly surrounding the abandoned plant and the lives that co-exists symbiotically. There was a brief moment of a scare, but all is good…one must be cautious at all times because everyone else is not as solicitous/alert/and or vigilante, so you must pick up the slack when others fail to pay heed to what’s directly in front of them!

I will hand out a questionnaire today and hopefully have all the data by Friday, which means, my weekend will be spent collecting, sorting, analysing, and making sense of it all. Though, I plan on making a visit to Sanchi (Google it, hella cool!).

I am receiving such fond e-mails from loved one (family and friends) and it is a joy to wake up t such kind and loving words—funny at times, which is always good! Thanks Lex, Linda, Lucia, Marty, Uncle Kendell, Steggy, and Aunt Betty.

Dharma Love.

Day Eight: Do you have any Indian Sandalwood Oil? I cannot find sandalwood anywhere, ugh!!!

Today’s agenda: (1) visit the permit office to tour Union Carbide; (2) first round of interviews with staff/administration and doctors; (3) visit the Old Market.

Thought for the day:

“Hurry to your own directing mind, to the mind of the Whole, and to the mind of this particular man. To your own mind, to make its understanding just; to the mind of the Whole, to recall what you are part of; to this man’s mind, to see whether there is ignorance or design—and at the same time to reflect that his is a kindred mind.”

What a day…what a day I had! Woof! One thing is needful when coming to India—patience. We arrived at 10:25 am and was informed that we had to wait until 11 am, we didn’t leave the office until 3 pm…permit in hand. We are not allowed to take photos or videos during the tour tomorrow, which is fine with me. Taking photos at times can hinder having a true experience with an object, I’ll will bring my note pad and pen, as I always do, and take copious notes. I made it to Old Market where I purchased bags of varied fruits, no veggies—I will buy veggies on my next trip…Friday evening…I will also buy spices and fruits. I have been contemplating what to bring home as gifts to my family and friends and I’ve figured it out—spices and teas! After all, I am in the deep East, the land of ‘exotic’ spices and teas!

In an attempt to relax after a mildly frustrating morning/afternoon, I am writing this blog and having Tulsi tea, which is delicious!

Because of the long wait at the permit office, our scheduled interviews were postponed until Wednesday. Tomorrow morning, I will start interviews at 8:30 am, then we will head to the Union Carbide site for a one-hour guided tour at 11 am. We will then walk around the colonies and converse with individuals directly affected by gas leak of 1984 and the subsequent contamination of drinking water in the years that follow, including presently.

The clinic is self-sustained and follows a strict no ‘outside chemicals’ model, in order to keep in good faith—since the patients are victims of a chemical gas leak. Everything that is used here is manufactured on site, which goes along with the holistic approach embedded within the clinics configuration. The medicine is made here, plants are grown in the garden, cultivated, and turned into organic remedies and treatment. The water is filtered and treated on site allowing foreigners (like yours truly) to consume with ease and at their own leisure. There are cooks on site too, providing vegetarian meals three times per day.

I will end today’s post with this…I had my first encounter with a victim of the Bhopal Gas Disaster, and it was an intense one, definitely divine in its occurrence. I will not describe it here because sometimes details are rudimentary.

Museum Visit: Remember Bhopal Museum

Here is one photo. I will upload more later (the internet is slow tonight).

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Every photo gives the option of listening to the victim’s testimony in Hindi or English, hence the receiver.

Here is a link: http://rememberbhopal.net/the-traveling-exhibition/

Day Seven: Snakes on a Plane – or no, I mean, snakes in the garden

Before coming to India I binged on a Nat Geo docu-series on Netflix called Wild India, woof, hoping to get accustomed to the sights, sounds, and creatures that roam these parts; however, no matter how much one mentally prepares for something like this it is always a shock when you find out that you share a space with creatures like tigers and snakes—after all, they are God’s creatures too and need love though they are terrifying things to many of us.

(Side note: I came across an article this morning which makes mention of an alligator crossing the streets of New York City!? Holy Moly! I have replaced one jungle with another, haaha).

I just spent an hour walking on one of the many balcony here pondering and meditating…drinking water and watching the trees sway in the wind. Since it is still raining, I cannot do my usual exercise routine, instead, I walk around in circles—think Socratic dialogue. From afar it may look cray-cray, but that is how I stay well-balanced in a world that is disconnected and hectic. It is essential to slow down and stay calm and avoid non-reactivity. I was doing a gratitude salutation by channelling the souls that are guiding lights in my life—from teachers, to friends, to family—it is a nice way to stay present and put things into perspective. If you are reading this, you were thought of during my walk/rain salutation. Smiles.

Today’s agenda: Go to New Market …I will go to New Market and then visit Market during the week. I will then take a cab to the area right outside the Union Carbide plant. We are hoping to get a permit that will grant us access to the plant itself which stands as a museum of death and a constant reminder of 1984—how can one move on when you are greeted by the very thing that ruined life as you know it?  Over dinner last night, the researchers and I planned a movie night for Monday (7/27)…we will be screening the Nat Geo documentary on the Bhopal disaster that was aired on Indian TV Wednesday night (7/21).

I have scheduled back-to-back interviews for Monday and Tuesday with staff, administration, doctors and health practitioners—it will be demanding, edifying, and rewarding (I’m using a translator which changes the speed and flow of an interview). The following week, which will be my last week here, I will have the same schedule but with patients/victims of 1984 (directly and indirectly affected).

Update: I was disappointed by New Market, ugh. We need permission before entering the UCB site so tomorrow morning we will go to the office and seek a permit.

The attached photo was taken from the cab on my way to the market—and I am entitling it “the family that rides together, stays together.” #i’mlovingit!

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The team cooked dinner together and now we are in the library working. It’s 10 pm on Sunday night and we are working away—reading and writing. We are all working on different things but collectively, on the same topic. I came across a dissertation that speaks on memory-making which will be of divine help. I started reading it and will complete it within the next two days.

Back to work…

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